At a time when the province is under the duress of wildfires, the 2016 WHL bantam draft brought smiles to the faces of many Albertans. The Energy Province saw the top three selections in the draft plucked out of its own backyard.
The Kootenay Ice kicked off the draft by choosing Okotoks, Alta., product Peyton Krebs first overall. The 5-foot-11, 163-pound forward lit up the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League this season with 46 goals and 102 points in 27 games for the Rocky Mountain Raiders.
“Our scouting staff has been watching Peyton Krebs compete at a high level for two years,” said Kootenay’s director of scouting Garnet Kazuik. “He possesses an element of speed and pace that is unparalleled in his draft class. He is a passionate player whose vision on the ice allows the players around him to be better as well. We are excited to welcome Peyton and his family to the Kootenay Ice organization.”
The Saskatoon Blades pulled off a trade with the Vancouver Giants in order to move up one slot to select Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., native Kirby Dach second overall. Following notching 100 points at the Bantam ‘AAA’ level last year, Dach made an early jump up to the ‘AAA’ midget level this season. He looked anything but out of place, scoring 14 markers and 35 points in 34 games with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers.
“I think the sky’s the limit for him,” said Blades GM-head coach Bob Woods. “He’s going to be a pretty exciting player for our fans to watch in the future.”
The Giants took the draft’s top blueliner, Lethbridge, Alta., product Bowen Byram, with the third selection. The 5-foot-11, 168-pounder is touted as a smooth skater who possesses soft hands and top-notch puck skills. He lit the lamp 22 times and notched 59 points in 24 matches with the Lethbridge Golden Hawks Bantam ‘AAA’ program this season.
“We’re very excited to add Bowen to our club as he was the number one player on our list,” Giants director of player personnel Jason Ripplinger said. “He’s a dynamic player with great offensive instincts. He also plays a good defensive game and is a very smart player overall.”
Here are some other news and notes outside of the top three selections.
- Humboldt, SK., native Logan Barlage won’t have to move out of his home province. The lanky forward, who scored 60 goals and 125 points in 30 games in Bantam ‘AA’, was chosen fourth overall by the Swift Current Broncos.
- The Medicine Hat Tigers closed out the top five selections by picking Yale Hockey Academy forward Josh Williams. He’s a skilled forward who notched 35 markers and 59 points in 25 games at the Bantam Prep level.
- The Spokane Chiefs chose the first American in the draft, Bettendorf, IA., native Luke Toporowski, with the ninth selection. The left-winger suited up for the Chicago Mission Bantam Major ‘AAA’ program this season.
- The Prince George Cougars took the first goalie of the draft, Calgary, Alta., native Taylor Gauthier, with the 10th overall selection. Gauthier is regarded as a big, flexible netminder with the potential to develop into a franchise player.
- The Kelowna Rockets traded up in the first round to pick Yorkton, Sk., defenceman Kaeden Korczak 11th overall. The Rockets have had success drafting defenders from that region, as the last blueliner they chose from Yorkton was New Jersey Devils second-rounder Damon Serverson in 2009.
- The Giants chose Yale Hockey Academy centre Harrison Blaisdell 31st overall. He was expected to be a top 15 pick until he verbally committed to the University of North Dakota last week.
- The Prince Albert Raiders may have found a gem in the third round with their selection of North East Wolfpack forward Luc Marleau. He has it all, as he’s a smooth skater who possess elite puck skills and an edge to his game.
- The Calgary Hitmen chose Jackson Niedermayer, the son of NHL great Scott Niedermayer, 90th overall. Niedermayer played on the Anaheim Jr. Bantam AAA Ducks’ back end this season.
Kelly Friesen is a Buzzing the Net columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KellyFriesen